Even though the election “season” hasn’t officially begun, it seems to be in full swing. President Obama will be the unchallenged candidate for the Democrat party and pool of possible candidates for the Republican party seems to be ever expanding. Obviously, MCOI cannot come out in support of a particular candidate or party but as with the last presidential election and the mid-term election, the candidates themselves have given us the opportunity to comment on religious questions. In addition to our Journal article, Barack and the Borg we have done over 30 blog articles on faith and politics. This week I read Chuck Baldwin’s article Letter from an Agnostic and was able to catch John Stossel’s Rise of the Independents on FOX this past Sunday. There are some common denominators here which reminded me of a blog we did in November of 2010, Jesus and the Tea Party. The main theme in that was that we are citizen rulers, citizen Caesars if you will. This impacts our understanding of and involvement in politics. Those politicians who are elected are supposed to be our servants, carrying out our mutual will as citizens within the bounds of the Constitution.
Baldwin’s article is good and well worth reading in its entirety but two paragraphs jump to the fore:
“When a civil magistrate assumes public office, he or she does not swear an oath to be a “good Christian,” or to be a “good conservative,” or to read their Bible and pray everyday. What they do swear to, however, is to “preserve, protect, and defend” the US Constitution.
The reason why it doesn’t matter to a hill of beans whether we elect Republicans or Democrats, or liberals or conservatives, or Baptists or Catholics, etc., is because, for the most part, none of them cares one iota about honoring their oath of office to be faithful to the Constitution! But holding our elected officials to the Constitution should be the primary focus of any public servant’s constituents. Forget the rhetoric! Forget the label! Forget the religious piety! If our public servants do not submit themselves to the Constitution to which they swore an oath before God and men, they are liars and frauds and should be treated as such!”
The “Citizen Caesars” who govern this nation have differing, competing worldviews and religious predilections. Each group, including Evangelicals, are in search of a candidate that holds their religious views in hopes of having their candidate elected in order to legislate for their moral positions. But, as Stossel asks, is the Federal Government’s job dictating morality on the nation? If so, whose morality? Christian’s? Atheists? Muslims? Hindus? In many ways, Christians have had safe harbor with the founding of America. It was founded by those who were Christians or deists. Freedom of worship was guaranteed within the document. The nation operated under a Judeo/Christian morality and ethic from its founding until the 1970s. Two of the founders, who also were the first and second presidents are quoted as saying in Religion and the Founding of the American Republic:
Washington called religion, as the source of morality, “a necessary spring of popular government,” while Adams claimed that statesmen “may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.”
They aren’t saying that the Federal Government mandates and enforces religion and morality but rather that religious and moral people strengthen and establish the principles on which the Constitution stand. The Constitution itself has no power to protect people, cause them to do good or evil. If we think about this a bit simpler. Speed limits inform drivers of a law. If they exceed the posted limit they are in jeopardy of receiving a ticket only if caught by a duly sworn officer. The law itself has no power to prevent the driver from speeding. It relies on people of good morality to obey it for the safety and protection of all. The Constitution functions in a similar way on a broader scale. It grants the Federal Government limited power and anything not explicitly stated is reserved for the states.
Religion and the Founding of the American Republic goes on to make an interesting observation:
That religion was not otherwise addressed in the Constitution did not make it an “irreligious” document any more than the Articles of Confederation was an “irreligious” document. The Constitution dealt with the church precisely as the Articles had, thereby maintaining, at the national level, the religious status quo. In neither document did the people yield any explicit power to act in the field of religion. But the absence of expressed powers did not prevent either the Continental-Confederation Congress or the Congress under the Constitution from sponsoring a program to support general, nonsectarian religion.
The Constitution is not anti-religion and definitely not anti-Christian as is so often practiced by the Federal Government today, but neither is it entrusted with teaching religion nor to affirm one religion as true or more superior than another. States are allowed to take those positions as are individuals but that is not the domain of the Federal Government. In some senses we are looking to elect candidates that will protect our freedom of belief and worldview as well as to coexist with the beliefs and worldviews of those who hold opposite views to ours. So, how should we choose our candidates? The answer, look at their record of being honest and keeping their oaths. Did they keep their marriage commitments or break them and if so why? Do they have fidelity to their church or religious teachings or try to change them for personal gratification or to gain some sense of credibility without actually believing what they have signed on to? If they do that on this issue why do we think they would actually maintain their oath to uphold the Constitution when it can be so much easier to try to navigate around it for personal gain and power? Do they really believe public office is a place to serve or a place to be served and from which they can rule? The question to decide in choosing a candidate is will they protect, defend and most importantly obey the Constitution or not?